From a purely alpha-numeric stand point, the USAF is already well along in the design and development of its next long-range strike bomber (LRS-B), the B-3. In fact, right about now they are comparing the blueprints for both the Northrop-Grumman design as well as the one submitted by the competing Lockheed Martin-Boeing team, mulling over the proposed costs, military-industrial implications, capabilities of its adversaries and other factors to come up with the replacement for both the aging B-52 and B-1 bombers.
Slated to be about half the size of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and likely propelled by two F135 jet engines that power the F-35 joint strike fighter, the USAF’s LRS-B is scheduled to enter service in the mid-2020s, and therefore must meet the Air Force’s requirements for at least the next twenty years. Range, low observability, payload carrying capability, targeting and avoidance systems are fundamental to the new design, which some believe will resemble a smaller version of the B-2 and not entirely unlike a drone on steroids.
The LRS-B would likely be fitted with the soon-to-be deployed HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System). HELLADS can take down missiles, rockets and artillery shells without having to pause between shots to cool down – a problem associated with laser beam weaponry in the past. The HELLADS has a built in cooling system that allows it to fire rapidly in high intensity situations. It is still in testing, but estimates suggest that this game changing piece of defense weaponry will be in use within the next five years. A laser weapons system isn’t entirely out of the question either.